This week I am back with the second part of how to build a people strategy. If you missed the first half of this list, jump back to newsletter TFYW #009 before continuing on.
Here are the seven points again:
- Branding your firm before you need talent
- Clarify the WHAT and WHEN before you need to hire
- Creating job postings and career pages that sell the firm
- Enhancing your interview process + trial days
- Onboarding team members is the first impression of your firm
- Providing real mentorship and growth plan
- Training that teaches the WHY and less of the HOW
Most firms need to remember that there are fewer barriers than ever preventing good talent from leaving. A thorough people strategy needs to be a priority for any firm.
Onboarding Team Members
One of the critical workflows I help design and build with my coaching clients is the client onboarding workflow.
Just behind the fulfilment workflows, a lousy client onboarding workflow can become a time-sucking bottleneck.
Team member onboarding may happen less frequently, but the investment and consideration are just as significant.
Team member onboarding will set the tone for the rest of the employee relationship.
The top three things a new team member needs immediately include:
- Peer Concierge
Assign another engaged team member to be that new hire’s concierge and friend. It sounds trivial, but this is important for the cultural health of your firm.
The faster the individual makes friends and feels accountable to others, the faster the new hire will take ownership and pride in their work.
This is extremely important for remote teams as well, as virtual teams can quickly feel isolated.
Give the concierge a budget for lunch and multiple coffees the first few weeks after the new hire starts.
This also takes a bit of the load off of you or the manager to answer questions and culturally integrate the hire.
Once a new team member is on their way to familiarizing themselves with their clients and tasks, give them a responsibility outside of their assigned work.
This immediately sets the expectation for the new team member to deliver on something new and be accountable. Unfortunately, most firm owners just want the client work to get done, while employees want fulfilment and leadership opportunities too.
This will help the team member feel a part of the whole and listened to, instead of being a cog in the machine.
Good talent is looking for various opportunities to grow and be engaged, so do this early and frequently. This develops the leadership capabilities of your team, keeping the team member involved while strengthening the firm’s human capital.
A responsibility could be sitting in on a new client meeting, leading a team meeting, or testing and reporting on a new app. Developing team members into leaders will be the key to any successful plan if you want your firm to grow.
I get into this a little further below.
Providing Real Mentorship And Growth Plans
An environment’s toxicity levels are established at the top.
You probably think you’re a nice person to work for and that the environment is not toxic – just remember that indifferent or disconnected leadership is toxic. The moment a leader doesn’t know a team member’s name will be the start of that team member’s exit.
Real mentorship and growth plans won’t allow you to be indifferent toward your team members.
Mentorship does not mean you relate personally to everyone. You do not have to be a buddy with every employee. Instead, you need to learn about their goals and how the firm and its structure can help them achieve those goals.
The growth plan formalizes and measures the mentoring relationship.
A plan has to have four main components:
- Timeline – What intervals and timing are projected?
- Work Evolution – What are the expected levels work? (not # hours but level of difficulty and quantity)
- Money and Benefit – What will be the increase in pay and benefits?
- Personal growth – What will the individual achieve personally with the support of the firm?
It doesn’t have to be elaborate, but it does have to be consistently applied and transparent. Formal mentor meetings should be at least every six months.
Your team should never wonder what they will be doing in 6 to 12 months. The plan will help keep them engaged.
In addition to formal mentoring meetings, a critical part of mentorship is providing real-time feedback. Feedback has to be real-time, so issues cannot linger for a month before being addressed.
Frequently checking in and providing feedback ensures that the team understands the firm’s expectations and their specific work.
This turns the feedback loop into an everyday part of work instead of a tense sit-down meeting only when crap hits the fan.
Many firm owners and managers are so busy themselves that they cannot check in on team members. Growing your people has to be a top priority.
If you don’t remember anything else from this week’s newsletter, remember this:
There is a distinction between revenue-generating (billable) work and profit-building (unbillable) work. Mentorship is one of the crucial unbillable, profit-building activities in your firm.
Training That Teaches The WHY And Less Of The HOW
Technical know-how is the first priority. Second is training on internal workflows, then firm technology, and finally, information and background on the clients.
Major frustrations for leaders result from giving tasks to team members without sufficient education around the WHY for the task.
Without knowing the WHY a slight variation in the task can cause a team member to spin their wheels. At times, inadequate technical training masquerades as inefficiency or time-wasting.
If a team member is planning to move into a new role, education (internal or externally delivered) has to be part of the growth plan. The investment in good technical training is an absolute must.
To gain the efficiencies that standardized workflows can provide, teams need clear documentation and training showing how to execute the workflows.
For all workflows, I created videos using Loom to have on-demand training and instructions. The videos were housed in the Loom library and then linked to each corresponding step of a work item.
For each video, ensure that the WHY is explained for each task or workflow. This gives meaning to the work as well as invites the team member to look for faster alternative methods to complete the work.
Other great tools include ScribeHow and Trainual.
Sidenote: When I sold my firm, I gave the Loom account to the new firm owner. He could train his team on the new workflows without doing any additional work.
In addition to the training videos, I leveraged the app training videos. Almost all of the major players in the app space offer training videos and support.
I also ensured that all new team members’ first task was to get certified for apps that had certifications, like Xero, QBO, Hubdoc and Dext.
Each client has a profile, including names and positions of key contacts, a description of the business, their markets and any general nuances.
From there, I had separate bookkeeping and tax sections, highlighting unique circumstances for that business. For one client, as an example, we had to import sale invoices from their proposal app. The profile had a link to the Loom video as well as detailed notes about the process.
New team members would have this profile open during the first couple of times they completed the client’s bookkeeping or their annual tax return.
Collectively, I called these profiles the Firm Wiki. Only certain people could edit the wiki, but the documents were frequently updated as the client’s circumstances evolved or technology changed.
This helped team members be more independent as well as contribute to the firm’s collective knowledge of the clients.
Bonus: Team Members Need to Progress Quickly
The idea that someone will be in a role for three years before moving upward is crazy. Not only will good talent leave, but the firm will experience significant growing pains.
The best return on investment includes not only getting team members to do a lot of work, but getting them trained/mentored as fast as possible.
Getting them to be more independent AND dependable is how to grow your firm.
I honestly hope that this newsletter helped you to think differently about how you build the people who build your firm.
Build The Firm You Want,